CLIFTON, NJ - The Eastside High School varsity football squad traveled to Clifton’s Joseph Greco Field on Friday evening to face off against the highly ranked Mustangs. The contest proved to be a defensive struggle as weather played an important role. Head Coach James Magazine’s Ghosts provided a valiant effort and were in contention for the entire contest but eventually succumbed by a score of 17-6.
Under overcast skies and a persistent light drizzle, the Ghosts won the opening coin toss and opted to kick off. The Mustangs’ Jason Crespo delivered a nice return to midfield but a clipping call negated some of the yardage gained.
The first play for Clifton, a successful eight-yard run up the middle by Jacob Moldinado, proved to be prophetic. The handoff to the junior running back was the first of many for the evening and played an integral part for the Mustangs’ ball control offense.
A long bomb from Clifton quarterback Kyle Vellis found wide receiver Michael Kristof down the left sideline for huge yardage. After a four-yard gain by fullback Nick Burgess into the red zone, Eastside senior Barry Mahmoud stonewalled a run and a false start against the home team moved the ball back to the Ghosts’ six-yard line. However, Moldinado was able to knife between center and right guard on the next play for an eight yard score. A successful extra point spelled Clifton 7-Eastiside 0, with 8:56 left in the first quarter.
Eastside’s Jonathan Gonzalez fielded the ensuing squib kickoff at his own 35-yard line giving the Ghosts a first and ten. A shoestring catch by wide receiver Jair Stewart from senior quarterback Wymeir Reed garnered eight yards but a run, right, was strung out by Clifton cornerback Caleb Bonaparte for a six-yard loss. The subsequent punt by the Ghosts’ Jaheim Carnegie travelled to the Mustang’s 35.
Clifton was able to advance downfield via a successful 30-yard pass. However, a false start penalty, confusion on a handoff, and a pass that was batted down by Eastside linebacker Amir Smith, forced the Mustangs to settle for a field goal. The 24-yard boot by senior Chris Stathopoulos sailed through the uprights giving Clifton a 10-0 advantage.
The second Clifton kickoff grounder again went to Gonzalez who initially mishandled the ball. Recovering, the senior running/defensive back was able to race upfield for 15 yards. A facemask penalty against the Mustangs was tacked on and provided excellent field position for the Ghosts at the Clifton 35-yard line. Behind stellar protection from offensive linemen Jahiem Parker and Jahi Riley, Reed was able to scan the secondary and complete a 15-yard pass over the middle.
Employing a no-huddle offense, three hard-earned yards up the middle were contributed by Ghosts’ running back, junior Amir Smith. At this point the Clifton defensive line stiffened, forcing an Eastside field goal attempt. The attempted boot failed but the Ghosts’ kicker was crushed by an oncoming Clifton lineman as soon as toe touched leather. The roughing the kicker penalty gave Paterson a 1st and ten at the Clifton five-yard line. A handoff right, to senior back Albert Canty, carried to within one yard of pay dirt. On third and goal, Canty was able to slice through the left side into the end zone. The extra point was blocked but the Ghosts had narrowed their deficit to 10-6.
The Mustangs’ Ahmad Ramadan, was injured on the play and lay motionless on the field for several minutes before limping to the sidelines to the warm applause by fans from both sides.
The ensuing Eastside kickoff was initially mishandled by the Mustangs but then returned all the way to the Ghosts’ 20-yard line. A loss of three yards was then followed up by a no-gain stop of a run by Paterson outside linebacker Arthur Edmonds. Faced with a 4th and eleven from his own 26-yard line, Vellis was flushed out of the pocket by Eastside defensive end Nyreek Clyburn and overthrew his intended receiver in the end zone. An illegal shift penalty added to the Mustangs’ woes and the ball was turned over to the Ghosts.
A ten-yard completion from Reed to wide receiver Ahsin Jacobs moved the chains and Smith burst off right tackle for another first down before a furious Clifton rush forced a fumble which was alertly recovered by Mustang senior defensive end Shaquaye’ Brimley.
Bonaparte then navigated through heavy traffic for a five-yard gain. However, despite a first down at Paterson’s ten-yard line, the Mustangs were not able to take advantage. A secondary blitz by the Ghosts’ Jacobs forced a seven-yard loss and a Vellis to Kristoff successful connection on fourth down fell short of necessary yardage. Soon thereafter, the second half horn sounded with the home team clinging to a four point lead.
Halftime was full of energy as the award-winning Clifton High School marching band did their best to brighten spirits during the damp and dreary scenario. The high-stepping musicians performed the songs, “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, “Happy” by Pharell Williams, and the iconic classic “Make Me Smile” by Chicago.
Eastside received the second half kickoff and started from their own 20. The 1st down hand off went to Smith on a sweep right which garnered seven yards. However, the Clifton line, led by sophomore defensive end Joe Abill, was able to squelch the Eastside running attack, forcing a punting situation.
Maldinado scooted for nine yards on Clifton’s subsequent offensive possession but the carry was diminished due to an illegal procedure penalty. Attempting to pass, Vellis was chased out of bounds by Eastside linebacker Shemar Douglass for no gain.
A four-yard run by Clifton was followed by unsportsmanlike conduct flags against both squads. Moldinado then carried for short gains on three consecutive plays but the Mustangs continued to shoot themselves in the hoof with a pair of false start infractions. By now deep in Ghosts’ territory, Maldinado was able to eke out a one-yard carry for a 1st down. Bonaparte was then knocked out of bounds and the Mustangs were called for yet another penalty, this one for holding. From Eastside’s 14, the call again went to Bonaparte who sliced through the line and raced across the goal line for a TD. With 5:40 left on the third quarter clock, the successful extra point resulted in the score Clifton 17-Eastside 6.
The Ghosts’ Jacobs provided an electrifying return on the subsequent kickoff, all the way to the Clifton 41-yard line before Bonaparte contributed a tackle behind the line for a five-yard loss. The Ghosts rebounded with a Reed to Canty flair pass for a nice gain. Another pinpoint bullet to Smith continued to move the chains. Canty then took a hand off, right, and appeared to be stopped by a horde of Clifton tacklers but managed to evade the fray and scoot upfield for big yardage. Once again, the Clifton defense stiffened and an incomplete, 4th down pass turned the ball over to the Mustangs.
The fourth frame saw both defenses step up to the plate as intermittent light rain transitioned into a virtual downpour. Both teams stuck to the running game as the slippery conditions hampered any passing attempts.
Bright spots for the Ghosts included stellar pass rushing by Gonzalez and Douglas while junior defensive back Quayier Alexander effectively patrolled the secondary. Reed and Canty offered several more offensive highlights but it was too little, too late, as the visitors fell 11 points short.
Eastside travels to Newark East Side for their next game on Thursday, October 22, at 7:00 p.m.
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